Returns to Physician Human Capital: Analyzing Patients Randomized to Physician Teams

Joseph J. Doyle, Jr., Steven M. Ewer, Todd H. Wagner

NBER Working Paper No. 14174
Issued in July 2008
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies

Patient sorting can confound estimates of the returns to physician human capital. This paper compares nearly 30,000 patients who were randomly assigned to clinical teams from one of two academic institutions. One institution is among the top medical schools in the country, while the other institution is ranked lower in the quality distribution. Patients treated by the two teams have identical observable characteristics and have access to a single set of facilities and ancillary staff. Those treated by physicians from the higher-ranked institution have 10-25% shorter and less expensive stays than patients assigned to the lower-ranked institution. Health outcomes are not related to the physician team assignment, and the estimates are precise. Procedure differences across the teams are consistent with the ability of physicians in the lower-ranked institution to substitute time and diagnostic tests for the faster judgments of physicians from the top-ranked institution.

download in pdf format
   (166 K)

email paper

The NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health provides summaries of publications like this.  You can sign up to receive the NBER Bulletin on Aging and Health by email.

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w14174

Published: Returns to Physician Human Capital: Evidence from Patients Randomized to Physician Teams (with Todd Wagner & Steven Ewer) Journal of Health Economics 29(6). December 2010: 866-882.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Almond, Doyle, Kowalski, and Williams w14522 Estimating Marginal Returns to Medical Care: Evidence from At-Risk Newborns
Almond and Doyle w13877 After Midnight: A Regression Discontinuity Design in Length of Postpartum Hospital Stays
Doyle, Graves, and Gruber w23166 Evaluating Measures of Hospital Quality
Gruber, Kim, and Mayzlin w6744 Physician Fees and Procedure Intensity: The Case of Cesarean Delivery
Epstein and Nicholson w11549 The Formation and Evolution of Physician Treatment Styles: An Application to Cesarean Sections
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us